NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Gotham” are present in this review
After the superb high note that Gotham hit last week, it feels like the show is now going over a bit of a speed bump. Being such a large and ambitious show, it’s often true that Gotham is difficult to steer, so to speak. Whenever the series wants to make a big change, or restore the status quo, it doesn’t often do so gracefully. That was pretty apparent in this week’s episode, “Red Queen”, which tries to resolve Gordon’s ongoing psychological struggles, though does so in a somewhat clunky fashion that might leave viewers scratching their heads by the end in some respects.
The fundamental idea behind this week’s main plot was plenty sound, as the Mad Hatter once again takes another step in his plan to torment Gordon and take apart Gotham City, breaking into the local morgue to steal back his sister’s corpse, then drain her blood to prepare a virus for the city’s elite class. Penguin happens to be hosting a dinner with all of the most powerful and influential people in Gotham City on this same day, making them all a prime target for infection via Alice’s blood.
That’s not all either, as Tetch gets ahold of a very powerful hallucinogen called, fittingly, “Red Queen”, which he gives Gordon a face full of, after luring him into the basement area of Gotham General. Before this though, we have to provide a quick and hasty resolution to the high drama of last week, which felt frustratingly shallow and rushed. Gordon tries to make peace with both Valerie and Leslie, though Valerie just immediately breaks up with him, and Leslie chastises him for not being honest about knowing that Tetch would shoot the opposite woman that Gordon told Tetch to kill. So it seems that Gordon did indeed play Tetch to shoot Valerie, since he actually wanted to save Leslie. I get why Valerie would be kind of sore about this, but the way that she abruptly terminated her relationship with Gordon, after flirting again not seconds before, was pretty lame, especially when we don’t even see her again for the rest of the episode. Moreover, Leslie suddenly egging Gordon to confess his feelings is pretty cheesy, especially right after Mario predictably orders Leslie to remove Gordon from their lives.
Once the actual ‘trip’ gets going though, there is some interesting insight into Gordon’s psychological battle with himself, even if the forced, heavy-handed way that the other characters kept suddenly declaring Gordon, “Afraid” from out of nowhere before said trip felt rather annoying. Still, a spiritual Barbara taking Gordon on several stops in an imaginary elevator, which show him visions pushed forward by familiar Gotham personalities like Bruce, Penguin, and of course, Leslie, was pretty interesting and nicely surreal. It was also great to have this culminate in Gordon having a heart-to-heart with his late father, in a vision before he meets his end in the car accident that took his life so many years ago, where Gordon is reminded of what it means to live up to his name and station. After looking at his father’s ring, Gordon then decides to rejoin the GCPD. Yes, the endgame of all of this was to provide an excuse for Gordon to drop the ‘lone wolf’ act and become a cop again, which he was obviously going to do at some point, but even if the show might have been better off waiting until the midseason finale or so to put Gordon back with the GCPD, it is pretty fulfilling to see Gordon find himself back on the right path again.
As for the other subplots, one was good, and one felt very half-baked and awkwardly tossed in. The better subplot was the Penguin/Nygma subplot, which has Nygma developing a whirlwind romance with Isabella, the Kringle lookalike that he met at the end of last week’s episode. Penguin predictably gets jealous, and even tries to undermine the budding relationship by blabbing to Isabella about Nygma’s history at Arkham Asylum, though surprisingly, Isabella still welcomes Nygma with open arms, declaring him the man of her dreams. Penguin stumbling upon this revelation after barely surviving the attack by Tetch, who is ultimately apprehended alongside the Tweedle brothers and thrown in Arkham, seconds before he almost poisons Penguin and all of Gotham City’s elite class with Alice’s blood, was pretty nicely dramatic too. Will Penguin ultimately give Nygma his blessing, or is Isabella going to be in for a world of hurt soon?
The less effective subplot came from Bruce’s perspective, as he tries to prepare an in-house dinner date at Wayne Manor for himself and Selina. Bruce goes to painstaking efforts to prepare an intricate meal, without Alfred’s help, only to have it later look like Selina stands him up… Then Selina just doesn’t stand him up, shows up late, confesses that the relationship evolution with Bruce is weird, and that’s the whole subplot. That’s it? Seriously? At least the Court of Owls did something useful this week (they’ve been strangely quiet for a little while, eh?), even breaking away from Bruce for now, and not only do they make contact with Penguin, but it’s also revealed in the episode’s very last scene that a mysterious man of the Court happens to have the very same ring that Gordon’s father had. Does this mean that Gordon’s father was part of the Court of Owls? Maybe, in an even more extreme example, Gordon’s father might have even faked his death, and is still part of the Court of Owls! That would certainly make for some nice dramatic irony, considering that Gordon just found new inspiration from his father’s memory after getting that big dose of Red Queen.
Gotham didn’t manage to keep up its recent hot streak, at least not fully, in this week’s episode, but there were still enough appealing story elements in, “Red Queen” to make the episode a fairly solid one. As much as the endgame is transparent, Gordon finally coming back to the GCPD feels satisfying to see, and Penguin’s growing jealously toward Isabella is certainly something that presents plenty of promise for later. I don’t get why the episode even bothered to incorporate Bruce this week though, and Valerie has yet again been thanklessly shuffled off as an afterthought, as if the show just got bored of her, and is now going to push Gordon back towards Leslie again. At least a confirmed connection between Gordon and the Court of Owls is a nice twist though. We can’t well let the Mad Hatter have all the fun for the entire season now, can we?
- Gordon facing his demons and coming back to the GCPD
- Penguin's and Isabella's responses to each other
- Court of Owls' return is unexpected and impactful
- Valerie is once again nudged away pretty thanklessly
- Bruce storyline is pointless
- Some of the character dialogue with Gordon is too on-the-nose